Psalm 42:1-2 (JB)
Like a deer that longs for springs of water,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, the living God:
when shall I come and stand before the face of God?
To what shall I compare the longing of my soul (he said with a Shakespearean lilt)? It’s as basic and instinctive as thirst. A graceful deer won’t be graceful for long if it dies for lack of fresh water.
I am not always aware that the deepest longings of my heart, my soul and even my body are really a desire for You, Father. I don’t live because of what I put in my mouth. I live because of my loving union with You. I live by drinking the water of life.
And my thirst is specific. I am not thirsty to talk about God, think about God or especially debate about God. I thirst for the Living God. The Living God is here and now. He is Emmanual—God with me. He is not in a land long, long ago or far, far away. He is present in the wind that causes the palm fronds to sway outside my window. He is present in the beauty of Asian hibiscus blooms that have appeared in just the last few days.
I thirst to be in God’s presence. I long to see God’s face. I am tired of so much talking about God, strategizing about church, thinking about spiritual things. I am hungry for a vital encounter with the Living God. What more do I need than Him?
I can’t live long without food—weeks perhaps. I can’t live long without water—only a few days. I can’t live long without air—minutes at best. But I cannot live for a moment without You, Father. You are always with me, even when I have forgotten and let my longings be diverted to lesser things. And You are patient in loving me back to Yourself. It’s always Your kindness that draws me back. Harshness draws no one.
May I find the deep satisfaction my soul longs for in You and You alone.
Psalm 42:3-4 (JB)
My tears are my food, by day and by night,
and everyone asks, “where is your God?.”
I remember how I went up to your glorious dwelling-place
and into the house of God:
the memory melts my soul.
The sound of joy and thanksgiving,
the crowds at the festival.
But instead of feeling nourished and refreshed, this psalm writer grieves and feels abandoned by God. He has no answer for the skeptics and critics who see no evidence of God’s blessing in his life. How do you answer a doubter who questions God’s presence in your life when you don’t feel it much yourself? What do I do when my experience of God is more memory than living, present experience?
Memory of past encounters with the Living God melts my soul and brings grief when my thirst for Him feels unquenched in the present. Past joy and gratitude feels like a tease when it’s hard to live zestfully and thankfully now. I don’t just want to remember moments of celebration in God’s presence. I want to experience them again now.
But am I measuring my life with God only by feelings? The irony is that I’ve lived so much of my life emotionally muted when I am actually a man of great passion and deep feeling. As that part of me has been coming alive, I am awakening to how deeply moved I can be by even the smallest things.
Psalm 42:5 (JB)
Why are you so sad, my soul,
and anxious within me?
Put your hope in the Lord, I will praise him still,
my saviour and my God.
Here is the psalm writer talking to himself. Who is the “me” who is talking to his soul? There is a kind of healthy or God-minded me talking to a dejected, sad me. It is as though the deep, truer “me” is reminding the shortsighted me of the nature of reality.
When I am tempted to daydream about my past experience of God in the face of a dry present, I can remember that dry places won’t last forever. I can hope in God and praise Him still. I can praise Him now when I don’t feel like praising because He is still praiseworthy. My feelings (or lack of them) do not change Him. He is Savior to me. He will rescue me from any harm.
I hope in God because my future with and in Him is good. Period. My life is brightening in Him, not dimming. I am being transformed by Him to more truly and fully reflect His image. What a gift!